Thursday, February 8, 2018

I Thought About, Remembered, Recalled, And Wondered: A Tribal Inventory (Channeling Susan Polis Schutz)

I listened to your incredible music today.

I read your lovely words.

I looked with admiration at your photographs and paintings.

I admired your talent.

I admired your passion.

I thought about how smart and funny you are.

I thought about your intensity, and envied you the courage of your convictions.

I remembered your beautiful smile and the sound of your splendid laugh.

I thought of that long conversation we once had, and how alive it made me feel.

I thought of all the times you've made me feel so alive, and how grateful I felt to be so alive.

I remembered the lights of the carnival that we saw looming across the dark fields, and the fireflies we watched from the top of the hill, and the marvelous light of Paris in late spring, and that little Inn in the Muenster Valley with the cows in their stall directly beneath our room, and that mysterious island in the North Sea, and those quiet nights on the dock in Upstate New York, and the other nights we listened to music and danced, and all the other nights when we sat quietly and read.

Sometimes we were a bunch, and it was magical, and other times there was just you and me, and that was also magical.

I remembered all the times you showed up to help me move.

I remembered when you called and offered me a job for which I was absolutely unqualified, and how grateful I still am for that.

I remembered how much you taught me that has made my life possible.

I remembered Vampire Mansion, and playing King of the Hill on the snow mounds, and wandering the fields outside your old family home.

I remembered when I was fucked-up and broken and you sat on my bed and told me exactly the right thing to do.

I remembered the times we huddled together for warmth and comfort as we watched someone we love die.

I remembered all the times we walked together, following a dog.

I remembered waiting anxiously for your children to be born, and how thrilled I was for you when you made some long journey to finally bring your babies home.

I remembered how much you loved the river, that place up north, the River House, the camp in the Adirondacks, the Upper Peninsula, your old family home, New York, driving, Talking Heads, Halloween, Christmas, Shakespeare, Joy Division, old movies, your dog, your cat, owls, Joni Mitchell, chicken pot pies, baseball, boxing, boats, The Little Prince, the memory of dancing on your father's feet, the sound of your mother's voice, your brother who died too young, soul music, Jimmy Reed, Laura Ingalls Wilder, that stuffed rabbit, your collection of dog photographs, Johnny Cash, Breakfast at Tiffany's, being with your sister, hanging out with your old friends, building bonfires, Michael Jackson, coffee, complimentary soda water, Scrabble, sleeping in, truck stop breakfasts, The New Yorker, Randy Newman, crossword puzzles, the State Fair, all of your beloved rituals and routines.

There were so many things you loved, and your love was contagious. I hope you still love those things, and haven't lost too much of what you love.

I remembered that poem you read to me. All the poems you read to me.

I remembered all the times you saved me from drowning.

I remembered when we walked together on a beach in Florida at night and talked about the astronauts that had been blown out of the sky two days earlier.

I remembered when we closed our eyes and made a wish.

I remembered the night, somewhere in Canada, when we slept in the backseat of our station wagon in a car wash.

I remembered how you refused to give up on a disposable razor, and had a drawer full of the damn things.

I remembered that time you tried to learn magic, and the old magic store you once dragged me into in Geneva, New York.

I remembered that time in your studio, when you shot photos of me fucking around, and how many costume changes I put you through, and how hard we laughed.

I remembered that zine you used to publish, and the way you used to play a right-handed guitar left-handed.

I remembered the times we hitchhiked across the country, and hopped trains, and the time we got so lost in the fog that we ended up pitching our tent in an old woman's backyard.

I remembered the time a bunch of thugs were beating and kicking a man in the subway and you instinctively waded right into the fray, screaming profanities and throwing punches, and made them flee.

I remembered how kind you were, and how you always made me feel interesting.

I remembered reading the emails you sent me when I was a grown man running away from home, and how I sat alone in a public library somewhere in Canada and cried.

I remembered how desperately I wanted to find you the perfect gift or to make you something beautiful.

I remembered the time we tried to build a roller coaster in our backyard.

I remembered the time we laughed our way through "2001: A Space Odyssey" and lobbed Sno-Caps at the screen until they kicked us out of the theater.

I thought of you holding a blue-eyed dog in your arms on a muggy night in August and letting him go.

I thought of the time in Ireland when the little boy on the train asked to see your muscles.

I thought of that smashing green suit you bought at Reach Out on Lake Street, and how lovely you looked in it.

I thought about all those days and nights we spent together in a van, all over the country, trying to find pictures, voices, and stories. I thought about how you came along and inspired me at a time when I assumed my days of inspiration were behind me.

I thought of your chapped little feet, your adorable little voice, your easy affection, and your wild appreciation for the cartoons of Tex Avery.

I thought about that time I was in a strange new house in a strange new town, alone with my sick dog in my arms, and how reassuring it was to have your words pop up --again and again-- on the screen of my cell phone.

I thought about the way you did that little shuffle dance to Low's "Just Like Christmas," and the way we sang along at the top of our lungs to The New Christy Minstrels while driving on Christmas morning.

I thought about all those mornings I struggled to get you out of bed, to get you to go to school, and how proud I was to see you graduate, and how proud I am to see you now discovering what an amazing person you are and what an amazing thing this world can be.

I thought about the life you have in front of you, and how marvelous I expect it to be, and how I can't wait to see all the ways you surprise me.

I thought about all the times I've seen you scrutinize yourself in a mirror, comparing yourself to some impossible ideal, and I hope you will one day realize how beautiful you are.

I thought about the time the police surrounded us, guns drawn, as I was trying to teach you to parallel park.

I thought about how thrilled I was to see your band play for the first time.

I thought about the time, in a torrential autumn rain, that we buried your beloved dog.

I thought about how much we've come to resemble each other, and how much I wish I could sing like you.

I thought about all the fireworks we've seen.

I thought about the time you showed up to play softball with a glove held together with guitar strings.

I thought about all the times I kicked your ass in Wiffleball.

I thought about our last trip to old Yankee Stadium.

I thought about all the baseball games we've seen together.

I thought about your nightly text messages and how much they mean to me.

I thought about that backyard talent show that now seems so long ago.

I thought of you preparing to move into your first home.

I thought about that time at Columbine High School, when we stood there in the eerie silence and cried in each other's arms.

I thought of you in Mexico, and you in Poland, and you in Sweden, and I tried to imagine your life there.

I thought of you on a plane to Japan, to China, to Argentina, to Europe, and I tracked the progress of every one of your flights on my computer screen, and thought about you alone in a hotel room somewhere across the world, and I hoped you knew how much I missed you.

I thought about how thrilled I am to have your art hanging on my walls, and hoped all sorts of other people would buy your art to hang on their own walls and would love it as much as I do.

I thought about the homemade chocolates you deliver to my door every Christmas, and your splendid company, and the dozens of acts of kindness --small and large-- you have shown me.

I thought of the time we played ball in the park with your son, and how it filled me with both joy and a weird sadness. I thought about the obvious love that existed between you and your boy, and the way he looked at you exactly the way I remember looking at my own father, and the way you looked at him exactly the way I remember my father looking at me.

I thought about how happy I was to have found you again, and all those times when we were young and you introduced me to so many of the things that blew my life wide open.

I thought of that huge old boat you used to have, the one with the greenhouse on the upper deck, and I thought of your orchids and the incomparable days at the camp in the Adirondacks and your sketchbooks and your love of gardening and your impossibly beautiful garden in Michigan and that stunningly comfortable house on the St. Joseph River and that magical place in Montana.

I thought of the time you gave me a souvenir from the 1965 World Series that had belonged to your father.

I thought about how wrong it is that you are in prison, and hoped that you are holding up all right and know how often I do think about you.

I remembered the joy of going to see your play performed for the first time.

I remembered the time I bailed you out of jail, and the time you drove 200 miles to visit me in treatment, and the time you banged on my doors and windows and stood on my doorstep and yelled, "Look, take your goddamn time, but just know that I'm going to wait you out and I'm not going anywhere until you let me in."

I remembered letting you in, and being glad that I did.

I thought about all those weird and wonderful CD mixes you sent me, and the annual Christmas cards that continue to come without fail.

I thought about our lunches and dinners at the Band Box and Bob's and Archie's and Steve's, and at all those drive-ins on the road; I thought about all that barbecue in Memphis, and the drunk Hibachi chef, and all the times we ate steak on my birthday or had backyard barbecues.

I thought about all the times you cut my hair, and how happy I always was to be with you and just listen to you talk.

I thought about how happy I was to see you at Palmer's that night, and at the Turf Club, or walking around Lake Harriet.

I thought about you in those hospital rooms, alone at night and staring at the ceiling, and I hoped you would always remember that you are one of my heroes, and that you knew how desperately I wished I could drive across town with an ice-cold Bubble Up, load you in the car, and finally bring you home.

I thought about how envious I am of your adventures and how so many of my own adventures would not have been possible if you hadn't taken me in.

I thought about the thing we used to do where we'd pretend we were The Hold Steady performing the essays of Terry Tempest Williams. I remembered watching you pull an Edward Gorey book down from a high shelf in some bookstore, and experiencing a moment of painful deja vu.

I thought about driving around in the Panhandle poking around in fish camps, and eating oysters and talking fishing with some of the locals. I remembered you playing "Lola" on a guitar in a music store in St. Joe's. I remember staying up late and talking.

I thought about all the times we talked on the phone until my battery died.

I thought about all those old photographs, and how it mostly doesn't hurt to look at them anymore.

I remembered that wondrous little felt donkey you made me, and how you stitched into it the words, "Steadfast and True."

I remembered walking around in an abandoned amusement park in the middle of the summer and watching a herd of reindeer disappear into the woods.

I remembered your red door and your shiny black shoes and your neighbor's addiction to the FryBaby.

I remembered the Wish Book, and how desperately I wished for those things.

I remembered when I first heard Van Morrison in your bedroom.

I remembered the letters you used to send me, and the notes you used to leave me.

I remembered when you time and again pointed out things I wouldn't otherwise have noticed.

I remembered when we had that big dream, and tried to make it real, and failed.

I remembered how much you loved "Moon River" and "Hey Ya" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

I remembered the stories we used to tell each other about the way we thought the world would be.

I thought about you.

I thought about what you might be up to now.

I remembered that one time, and another one after that, and another one, and there wasn't anything sad about any of it. It all seemed rare and precious and miraculous, and barely real, or at least not real in the terrifying way this world so often feels real.

And so I did something I don't often do: I thought about how lucky I am. I thought about how grateful I am to have found you in this crowded, impossible world, and how I hope none of us is done yet and there will still be more and that I'll take you with me when I go.


  1. Honorable company. Thank you, sir.

  2. The pleasure's been all mine, Merc.

  3. It touched me to my very soul. Thanks Liz for sharing this!

  4. When words from the page make the literal and spiritual heart feel and move..then the writing has hit it's mark.Just as music makes the body sway and the foot-tap.Bravo,dude,bravo!

  5. Whoa. What phenomenal experiences and memories. You live.

  6. I have friends and members of my family who I would like to write something similar you mind sharing? This is so beautiful!

  7. Cindy, I don't mind at all. Thank you.